Now holding the reins for de Blasio
This morning, in an office building across from City Hall, mayor-elect Bill de Blasio unveiled the first appointment to his incoming administration. It was a big one.
Anthony Shorris, a diminutive man-about-government who's worked as a senior vice-president, vice dean and chief of staff at the N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center, will serve as de Blasio’s first deputy mayor.
“This is a guy who does not need any warm-up pitches,” said de Blasio. “He has done all of the requisite work that will allow him to immediately take over the reins and do so effectively.”
De Blasio described a broad portfolio for the position, with the police commissioner and education chancellor taking their orders directly from the mayor, but the majority of other commissioners and deputy mayors reporting to Shorris.
“There’s a lot of things that have to happen operationally, there’s a lot of decisions that don’t rise to the level of the mayor, and I want everyone to know where the buck stops in all those other situations,” said de Blasio. “It stops with Tony Shorris.”
Thanks to his lack of executive experience, de Blasio was widely expected to name a capable administrator to handle city operations, and Shorris would seem to fit the bill.
“Tony Shorris is an ideal choice to help the new mayor with the enormous fiscal operational and social issues the city faces,” said Chris Ward, who succeeded Shorris at the Port Authority and was also rumored to be under consideration for the first deputy mayor job.
“He's a good guy,” said a former colleague. “Rock solid. A little Napoleonic. “
Shorris served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under Ed Koch, and de Blasio called him “one of the central architects of the Koch administration’s affordable housing program,” which is thought of as one of the most successful affordable housing programs in city history.
"He was the housing guy at O.M.B. and certainly contributed," emailed Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City who spent 14 years working on affordable housing.
Shorris went on to become Koch’s finance commissioner, and then served as deputy chancellor for operations at the Department of Education in the Giuliani and Bloomberg administration.
In the summer of 2003, Shorris, whom the Daily News described as a “moonlighting school deputy,” resigned his position following reports that he had a second job consulting for Local 1199.
The 1199 gig had the approval of both schools chancellor Joel Klein and the Conflicts of Interest Board. But, as the News noted, “Public reaction…was less forgiving.”
“‘Who needs this shit?’ Shorris said to a colleague when he told him of his pending departure,” reported the News.
Asked about the episode today, de Blasio was unfazed.
“The proper approach is if there is a situation like that, is bring it to the Conflicts of Interest Board, get a ruling and follow the ruling,” he said. “In this instance, Tony had been doing some work previously, the question was could he continue it and finish it out appropriately. The Conflicts of Interest Board said yes, he could. And that work was on behalf of low income workers, to make sure they had health insurance. So I’m very satisfied with how he handled it.”
Governor Eliot Spitzer went on to appoint Shorris executive director of the Port Authority, where he oversaw the Ground Zero rebuild and was well-regarded for his work.
But he was faulted for a lack of transparency when it came to the site's substantial cost overruns and delays.
A 2008 New York Times article reported that, “The prospect of delays and overruns has long been evident, despite assurances by the Port Authority as recently as this April that the project would proceed on schedule. ... Eliot Spitzer, then the governor, and Anthony E. Shorris, then the executive director of the Port Authority, rebuffed a recommendation by Avi Schick, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, to make that assessment public. Mr. Shorris and Mr. Spitzer feared that they would lose leverage with contractors and make any delays inevitable if they revised the schedules and budgets for the project."
Shorris is now a board member at the Regional Plan Association and co-chairs the Fourth Regional Plan, the organization’s widely anticipated blueprint for infrastructure development moving forward.
“Tony is an exceptional public servant,” said Wendy Pollack, the association’s spokeswoman. “He's incredibly smart and brings a tremendous amount of experience to the job."
De Blasio also named Dominic Williams, his chief of staff in the public advocate's office, as Shorris's new chief of staff.
And he named one of his key political aides, Emma Wolfe, to be director of intergovernmental affairs.
Asked if his wife, Chirlane McCray, played a role in these decisions, de Blasio gave a resounding yes.
"I've said this so many times, I’m happy to say it again," said de Blasio. "Of course she played a role in these decisions.”
But he declined to release any further details about his still-formative administration.
“Let me say again, I want to reason with everyone here, this is a work in progress," de Blasio said. "It should be a work in progress. We’ve got a month ahead and then every transition continues on into January and even sometimes February.”